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the "Communion" afterthought

A few months ago, I referred to the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI) as a group that "goes to some lengths to establish itself as being something other than six guys with a website and some spare time." Now that a presentment has been issued against the ACI's executive director, Fr. Don Armstrong, with the charges including diversion of funds for "AI/ACI" expenses, Christopher Seitz, the ACI's preseident, is describing his organization in the same way as part of a case that the ACI was never involved with Armstrong's parish or its earlier ministry, "the Anglican Institute."

Seitz says in his first a long series of comments on Kendall Harmon's blog that, "ACI was formed at the January 2004 conference in Charleston, with the dissolving of SEAD, so as to assist several Primates and the work of the AC. Prior to this, there was an ‘Anglican Institute’ at Grace Church."

The Internet Archive (also known as the "Wayback Machine") shows a page retrieved and archived on September 21, 2003 from http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.org that lists, among other things, as "upcoming" events a lecture on September 29, 2003 and "in January term" ("term," of course, being a word with the ring of an academic institution) a conference with the title "Communion or Federation?" -- the conference at which Radner says the ACI was formed, and before which it didn't exist. This web page from September of 2003 offers the names of the ACI's president (The Rev'd Professor Christopher Seitz), executive director (The Rev'd Donald Armstrong III) and board of directors (nearly identical to the current board). I'd say that an organization that has a board of directors, officers, an executive director, events, and publications (as the archived page shows) most definitely exists. Indeed, the ACI was already making news in the blogosphere: Kendall Harmon posted a piece from "the Very Rev Dr. Philip Turner, Vice President: The Anglican Communion Institute" on September 21, 2003. Simon Sarmiento of Thinking Anglicans posted about it on on September 25, 2003.

Furthermore, this page archived from anglicancommunioninstitute.org on October 8, 2003 allows people to pre-order a forthcoming publication called Claiming Our Anglican Identity: The Case Against the Episcopal Church, USA, claiming that it is "A Paper Commissioned For the Primates of the Anglican Communion by The Most Rev. Drexel Gomez, The Most Rev'd Peter Akinola, and The Most Rev. Gregory Venerables," and adding that it is "copyright 2003 The Anglican Communion Institute, All Rights Reserved." The title page of Claiming Our Anglican Identity (conveniently posted in PDF format at the ACI website currently) also shows a copyright date of 2003 and the copyright owners as being "The Anglican Communion Institute," listed at the same address as Grace and St. Stephen's, Fr. Armstrong's parish.

Seitz subsequently posted this:

As this has come up on another web site: ACI was formed by taking the Board Members from SEAD and dissolving SEAD so as to be able to focus on the demands of the present season. Anglican Institute has nothing to do with ACI, in terms of its origins and history; it was a separate reality and if memory serves, had a life prior to moving to Grace Church. SEAD was operating in Charleston (and Dallas, Oxford and Toronto) and running conferences in that context from 1997-2004. Anglican Institute was also running conferences according to its own mission at that time. Others will know better what AI’s mission and history was and can enlighten. C Seitz, ACI

And then he posted a third comment:

C.B. — I appreciate your perspective, but ACI is unrelated to AI and that is true, a fact, etc. That others may perceive the matter differently I accept, but that does not change the reality. The main writers and workers for ACI all were involved in SEAD. SEAD formally dissolved. ACI grew out of that. To be sure, Grace Church had a kind of relationship to AI that they judged to be X or Y — they hosted conferences, etc. ACI has not been a conferencing initiative, in large measure because of the work required. None of us have received any compensation, the work is done pro bono out of conviction regarding the Anglican Communion and due to personal contacts that have nothing whatsoever to do with AI. For all we know, AI still exists. I cannot comment on that. C Seitz

And a fourth:

CB–I am the President of ACI. I was the President of SEAD. I worked there with Philip Turner, Ephraim Radner, Peter Walker, Andrew Goddard, +Drexel Gomez, +Jim Stanton, and others. I simply have no sense of the specific history of AI. We ‘inherited’ nothing from that in our day to day work and I was never involved in AI in any formal sense. I am aware of our actual work at ACI, and 90% at least goes by my eyes, and it is work that happens out of the generosity of those contributing. No stipends are paid, and this costs Grace Church nothing in the strict sense. We have a web site, and that is paid for by Grace Church, as I understand it. AI is unrelated to ACI. I suspect you will appreciate how odd it is for me, as President of ACI, to respond to initials from someone telling me how it is in fact related to AI. And I repeat, I don’t know if AI still exists as I was never involved with it. I DO know that SEAD, which was incorporated, was dissolved in 2004. When I see in a Presentment that the Anglican Communion Institute was involved in book-keeping matters at Grace Church prior to 2004, I am confused. But then, this whole thing is confusing. But I may surmise that what is meant is Anglican Institute; that is for others to sort out. In that strict sense, I repeat, ACI and AI are unrelated. Book keeping related to AI has nothing to do with ACI, nor should it. I hope all of this is resolved to Grace Church’s satisfaction. It is serious business and tragic. Blessings, C Seitz

Seitz says:

  • "Anglican Institute has nothing to do with ACI"
  • "ACI is unrelated to AI and that is true, a fact, etc."
  • "The main writers and workers for ACI all were involved in SEAD. SEAD formally dissolved. ACI grew out of that" (i.e., and NOT out of AI).
  • "I simply have no sense of the specific history of AI. We ‘inherited’ nothing from that in our day to day work"
  • "AI is unrelated to ACI."

There's a lot of evidence supporting a different story, however, in which the relationship between the ACI and the AI is so close as to render them practically indistinguishable.

You can view the home page of the Anglican Institute from April 5, 2004 here. It shows the logo of the AI: a torch with the Latin slogan "IGNIS IN ANIMO," which you can see at the top of the right-hand sidebar. Here it is:

Ai_logo_gtan

Here's the banner of the Anglican Communion Institute as of today (April 14, 2007 -- you can click on the banner for a full-sized version):

Aciheadplate2

Same graphic of a torch with the same Latin slogan.

Or take a look at the mission statement of the Anglican Institute, as recorded in the Internet Archive from April 10, 2003:

It is the mission and purpose of the Anglican Institute to make a biblical and historical articulation of the faith once delivered readily available to the larger church through conferences and printed word. By bringing together the finest theological and biblical scholars in the Church, it has been and will continue to be our goal to offer a forum for significant reflection on core matters of the doctrine and discipline of the church for its clergy and lay members.

In an age of religious confusion, ignorance and tentativeness, both in the church and in the culture, an engagement with and an understanding of the gospel that will generate a sturdy and effective faith needs to be enthusiastically offered and succinctly articulated. It is the goal of the Anglican Institute to accomplish just this task. We ground and focus our work in the formational historic events of the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, combined with the tolerance, fair-mindedness, and generosity which distinguish our particular Anglican tradition. It is simply the Apostolic Christian faith--expressed in scripture, interpreted in the creeds, guarded by tradition and experienced in sacrament--that we wish to fortify, proclaim and make accessible.

An ongoing series of conferences and the books which are compiled from them address issues of theological significance from a classical Christian perspective in an age of theological confusion and syncretism.

Compare it to the current ACI website page with its mission statement (archived February 7, 2006 here; link provided in case the ACI changes the page after I post this):

With several hundred members and supporters, the Anglican Communion Institute stands for a clear reawakening of "dynamic orthodoxy" ---an application of creedal faith to the urgent questions of today. As Lord Carey of Clifton, former Archbishop of Canterbury, has written, "I welcome this exciting initiative. At a time when our growing Communion is under strain, we need to undergird our common life with a firm base in Anglican doctrine and devotion and worship."

It is the mission and purpose of the Anglican Communion Institute to make a biblical and historical articulation of the faith once delivered readily available to the larger church through conferences and printed word. By bringing together the finest theological and biblical scholars in the Church, it has been and will continue to be our goal to offer a forum for significant reflection on core matters of the doctrine and discipline of the church for its clergy and lay members.

In an age of religious confusion, ignorance and tentativeness, both in the church and in the culture, an engagement with and an understanding of the gospel that will generate a sturdy and effective faith needs to be enthusiastically offered and succinctly articulated. It is the goal of the Anglican Communion Institute to accomplish just this task. We ground and focus our work in the formational historic events of the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, combined with the tolerance, fair-mindedness, and generosity which distinguish our particular Anglican tradition. It is simply the Apostolic Christian faith--expressed in scripture, interpreted in the creeds, guarded by tradition and experienced in sacrament--that we wish to fortify, proclaim and make accessible.

An ongoing series of conferences and the books which are compiled from them address issues of theological significance from a classical Christian perspective in an age of theological confusion and syncretism.

It's practically identical, aside from that the AI statement goes on to list some specific examples of conferences and books, and the ACI statement opens with a quote from retired Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey and a claim to have "several hundred members and supporters."

That mission statement has gotten awkward for the ACI, however. Seitz now says that "ACI has not been a conferencing initiative, in large measure because of the work required," disavowing the "ongoing series of conferences" in the AI/ACI mission statement. And in response to a query about how the ACI could have "members" if it is as he describes, he adds here:

“With several hundred members and supporters, the Anglican Communion Institute stands for …..” —

I am unsure where this came from, and to what ‘members’ refers. Thank you for pointing it out.

ACI has no ‘members’ I am aware of!

It's not a very good sign of an organization's health when its president doesn't know about its mission statement, of course. I'm inclined to believe Seitz's current claim that the ACI never had any members, and disinclined to believe the ACI website's claim of "hundreds of members and supporters." Indeed, Seitz here agrees with my earlier description of them as "six guys and a website."

But now today the ACI has distanced themselves from their former "collegial theologian" and executive director with an announcement that they are dissolving their relationship with his parish, and the ACI is down to five guys making announcements and publishing statements on other people's blogs. It's difficult to see how one can dissolve a relationship that never existed, of course; Seitz's repeated and emphatic denials that there ever was one and the ACI's statement that they wish to dissolve it can't both be true.

In light of this final piece of evidence, I'm inclined to believe the latest statement, and say that the remaining "Collegial Fellows" the ACI quite understandably want to distance themselves from the ACI's earlier incarnation as "The Anglican Institute, a ministry of Grace and St. Stephen's parish." I encourage you to take a look at this Anglican Communion Institute page posted CURRENTLY (as of today, April 14, 2006, it is identical to this page archived February 12, 2006; I'm providing the link to the archive in case the ACI changes their page after I post today) at anglicancommunioninstitute.org for people to order ACI books. The banner at the top of the page looks like this (click it for a full-sized version):

Acibookordertopbanner

The date generated in the header is automatic, but they seem not to have set it up so the year changes (which makes sense, as I don't know how that could be scripted easily with Latin numerals). It's today's banner. The footer at the bottom of the page today looks like this (click on it for a full-sized version):

Acibookpagefooter

That's right: the footer of the Anglican Communion Institute's website says "The Anglican Institute."

The Anglican Communion Institute and the Anglican Institute have the same torch logo, the same address, the same telephone and fax numbers, the same webmaster, and the same executive director. From my perspective, the ACI's book page tells a very clear story: the AI changed its name as they sought to broaden their appeal elsewhere in the Communion by adding "Communion" to their name -- an afterthought, but a very smart one, even if (or perhaps especially because!), as Simon Sarmiento pointed out, it makes a few guys and a website sound like something far larger and more important, perhaps an academic organ of the Anglican Communion Office, only with unanimity one wouldn't normally expect from an academic faculty.

That's falling apart now. The cracks that were appearing when I last blogged about the ACI have now become fissures, with at least one clear break:

Don Armstrong, who was up until now executive director and "Collegial Fellow" of the ACI, is still referring to the AI and the ACI as one group: "AI/ACI." This is the story he was telling, at least as of a few days ago, on his comments on Kendall Harmon's blog:

Maybe I can shed some light on this particular discussion. ...

AI and ACI are both ministries of the parish but are managed with separate accounts that are audited annually with the rest of the parish ministries.

ACI/AI are funded by private donations–and all money raised for these ministries is always spent specifically for the purposes for which it was raised. None of this has been for salaries, but for conferences and publishing, in most recent years for the sort of work Chris Seitz has described.

Since 2003 until just this past Fall, Grace Church has funded the ACI from its own monies to maintain its independence and so that it would be free from political pressures that outside fund raising naturally involves.

No money disappeared into these ministries, but was used for the purposes it was intended.

The ACI/AI has granted scholarships for a number of theological and educational ventures over the years, but those funds are separate from the working money given for ACI. In other words I raised money specifically for the purpose of supporting these other various educational ventures–which included clergy and lay continuing education, seminary education expenses for third world students, writing projects and the like.

Fr. Armstrong is to be presumed innocent unless and until the proceedings of church and courts say otherwise. If he is guilty of fraud, his parish is a victim, and the AI/ACI, to all appearances a ministry of the parish consisting of the efforts of fewer than a dozen people, may be a victim as well. Armstrong and his former "Collegial Fellows" may not agree on everything, but they can probably agree around Seitz's summary:

"This is all very sad and unforeseen."

UPDATE 10:17 p.m., 14 April 2006: Thanks to "No Ambiguity Here" in the comments, I'd like to add that the sole registrant (administrative as well as technical) for the domain name "anglicancommunioninstitute.org" is an entity: The Anglican Institute, at 601 N. Tejon Street in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In other words, the Anglican Institute (with whom the ACI supposedly never had any relationship, and from whom the ACI supposedly inherited nothing) registered the domain name for the Anglican Communion Institute. As far as I can tell, this happened in 2003, before the Anglican Communion Institute supposedly existed.

April 15, 2007 | Permalink

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Comments

Sarah: Thanks for your work in pulling the ACI information together. It is astonishing how quickly an organization with hundreds of members and an impressive Board of Directors (including present and former Anglican Primates) has suddenly become six "loosely-knit" guys with a web site that they didn't pay for and that they didn't run. Who got the proceeds from the books and articles that these "guys" authored and sold on the ACI website? Who filed the organization's tax returns? Hopefully, the full story will be told.

Posted by: Robert | Apr 14, 2007 7:35:44 PM

There may be a more charitable reading of the website logo issues you accurately noted-- it could well be that the webmaster (whoever that is) may not have been aware of the distinction(s) between these two "organizations." It may also have been the case that the webmaster cooked up the ACI mission statement by appending materials that seemed to fit what ACI seemed to be doing to what was already in hand from AI.

It would also seem to me that it is possible that the "six guys" didn't do a lot to check the accuracy of the ACI website and were not terribly involved with its design or even contents-- except for working on the publications that were sold through it and sending occasional articles for the webmaster to post. These six guys, after all, are primarily clerics and academics, not organizational gurus or web communicators. Their world is primarily that of ideas, and the primary medium together has been print. The website represented ONE way to market their "real work" that cost real money-- work that was primarily not an online venture. The free occasional articles were a sidelight venture and did not cost a thing.

One other possibility... that the work of the ACI was funded or covered for tax purposes through the organizational aegis of the AI within the books of Grace Church. Hence a footer pointing to AI for book sales might not have been an error, but a kind of disclosure of which part of which organization was supporting or covering what activities.

To be sure, none of these scenarios reflects well on the leadership of ACI or anyone associated with it. However what these possibilities point toward is less mendacity
than being somewhat out of touch with the website and the financial affairs of the enterprise. Where does responsibility lie in either case? That may be a matter for courts to determine.

Sad and unforeseen, yes.

But in an era in which all sorts of organizations, for profit and not for profit, have seen a justifiably increased set of expectations for corporate governance of any enterprise-- formal or informal-- all of this should have been far from unforeseeable.

Posted by: Taylor Burton-Edwards | Apr 14, 2007 8:48:43 PM

Excellent legwork. It's not like it wasn't fairly obvious, but seeing it laid out like that makes it clear that it's all window dressing to make their "collegial fellows" out to be much more important and influential (and numerous) than is strictly true.

Posted by: ginny | Apr 14, 2007 9:34:36 PM

Registrant:
THE ANGLICAN INSTITUTE
601 N TEJON ST.
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO 80903
US

Domain Name: ANGLICANCOMMUNIONINSTITUTE.ORG

Administrative Contact , Technical Contact :
THE ANGLICAN INSTITUTE
scott@papillon76designs.com
601 N TEJON ST.
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO 80903
US
Phone: 719-633-5529
Fax: 719-633-1473

Record expires on 14-Aug-2007
Record created on 16-Aug-2005
Database last updated on 17-Feb-2006

Domain servers in listed order: Manage DNS

NS.DNSPROTECT.COM
NS2.DNSPROTECT.COM

Show underlying registry data for this record

IP Address: 209.51.149.165 (ARIN & RIPE IP search)
IP Location: US(UNITED STATES)-ILLINOIS-BLOOMINGDALE
Record Type: Domain Name
Server Type: Apache
Web Site Status: Active
DMOZ 1 listings
Y! Directory: see listings
Secure: No
E-commerce: No
Traffic Ranking: 2
Data as of: 29-Jan-2007

Posted by: No ambiguity here | Apr 14, 2007 10:12:42 PM

I'd like to add what's left of my two cents here. Many at Stand Firm and T19 have taken offense at what seems like belaboring a point, i.e., ACI website and the relationship of ACI and AI - Rev. Radner and Rev. Seitz included. I personally don't think they conspired to mislead anybody. I do think they were incredibly lax, perhaps negligently so. Why? Because Rev. Seitz apparently never took the time to review the website carefully and ask whether it was an accurate portrayal of the group and its opertions. Instead, they turned the website - probably the single most prominent venue by which they hold themselves out to the broader public - completely over to Don Armstrong who, evidently unbeknownst to them went around raising and distributed funds for scholarships for students in "third world" countries and other activities (according to Armstrong)based upon who ACI appeared to be, instead of who it actually was. And while they may wish to distance themselves from the contents of the website or the impression it gave off, they all benefited from it.

Posted by: C.B. | Apr 15, 2007 2:02:28 AM

Dylan - I hope you have saved all your research in this matter. It may be the only evidence of the controversy after the website is changed. Also, did you happen to read Rev. Radner's reference to you on Stand Firm? He credits you with the "six guys and a website" description.

Posted by: C.B. | Apr 15, 2007 11:25:16 AM

I'm prepared to take the Rev. Dr. Seitz at his word as to his ignorance as to Fr. Armstrong's actions in the name of ACI. Indeed, it seems like Fr. Armstrong was operating the financial side of ACI all by himself, without the knowledge of, or any accountability to, the board of directors.
It's also not clear how much the Dio. of Colorado's audit included ACI, and how much more in the way of shady finances might be uncovered there.

Posted by: Jim Pratt | Apr 15, 2007 12:04:09 PM

Thanks for your comments, all. C.B., I share your hunch that Seitz, Radner, and co. didn't really follow what their executive director was doing. Personally, I'm sympathetic -- anyone who's ever been in an organization with me knows that I am far more interested and skilled in teaching, preaching, and writing than in accounting, and I fully understand the temptation to let someone who eagerly offers to take care of all of these "details" (the website, the accounts, and so on) do so. I understand how people with demanding full-time jobs (much like certain preacher/bloggers with a mish-mash of consulting and speaking jobs plus assigned work in seminary!) might let this eager administrator/fundraiser have a very free and minimally supervised hand.

And yet presidents of organizations need to resist that temptation. The ACI functioned as "six guys and a website," but by calling itself an "Institute," it made a claim to be an institution -- a claim reinforced by appointing a "board of directors" (who seem not to have been meeting, let alone directing) with officers (a president, a vice president, and a "senior fellow" -- and is it just coincidence that this would form the required three officers for a nonprofit corporation?) and an executive director. The title "executive director" implies that this person executes the policies and mission of the "board of directors," and having a "president" of that board implies that there were meetings and activities as a board over which someone presided.

The bottom line is that if the executive director of the AI/ACI was, over a period of years, doing anything that would undermine the reputation or mission of the organization, the board, and especially its president, had a supervisory duty to catch it and put a stop to it. If Armstrong+ is telling the truth and the AI/ACI was doing a number of very expensive things -- including paying for the education of the executive director's children -- outside its mission and best practices, if not outside the law, then I think the smartest as well as most honorable thing for the ACI's board and officers to do would be to issue a statement saying that they weren't doing what their titles implied were their duties, apologizing for it, and laying out what steps they were taking to get the ACI back on track with its mission (perhaps in contrast to what its website has been saying for the past four years its mission was). Seitz would, I think, be MUCH better off saying, "although I was president, I really didn't know what the executive director was up to and where the money came from or went," rather than saying that "90%" of the day-to-day functioning of the ACI crossed his desk and was reviewed by him. And saying that the ACI and the AI had no relationship at all, in my opinion, just insults our intelligence.

I do believe it's probable that, despite Seitz's comments, the remaining ACI board and officers were victims and not perpetrators if there was any fiscal wrongdoing. But that just underscores a lesson that I thought was pretty ingrained in most of us post-Watergate: The cover-up is often worse than the crime.

Posted by: Sarah Dylan Breuer | Apr 15, 2007 12:33:57 PM

Yes, this might seem like belaboring a point, but this is the point worth belaboring: The Archbishop of Canterbury needs to understand that the clearly stated intention of this "alphabet soup" of grandly-named organizations (AAC, ACI, ACN, IRD, et. al.) is "realignment" that will replace TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada in the Communion with their own organization in North America. AND WHAT WE SEE HERE IS THE KIND OF ORGANIZATION IT WILL BE: irresponsible, unaccountable, and quite possibly criminally negligent. Flawed as the existing Churches may be, their replacement with this "gang that couldn't shoot straight" would be a complete and total disaster for Anglicanism.

Posted by: No ambiguity here | Apr 15, 2007 1:20:19 PM

No ambiguity here - I think you clarify a good point. To me, the people this particular mess reflects on is CANA, Minns and Akinola. Armstrong's train wreck is a rather old and tawdry story, not much to see here - move along, but that CANA and Minns would enter into the fray at this stage and contribute to the confusion and conflict that the congregation is experiencing - to me speaks volumes as to their priorities and judgement.

Posted by: C.B. | Apr 15, 2007 1:57:29 PM

Nice bit of research, Dylan. A rollicking good read. :-)

Posted by: weirdbird | Apr 15, 2007 9:32:13 PM

Since this is the central website for all things ACI, I'll throw in my recollections.

I used to belong to SEAD. I went to the Charleston conferences. They had a paid secretary for a while. There was once a small journal, Harvest, with great articles. The academic quality and ecumenical breadth was splendid.

The money was apparently tight and SEAD had to (as I remember) merge with the Anglican Institute, an outfit that was doing some of the same sorts of things out of Colorado Springs. The new entity was the Anglican Communion Institute. I heard a rumor that Armstrong was an effective fundraiser and could help the former SEAD stay alive (not that there were very high expenses, but flying top-notch theologians over the Atlantic and putting them up had to cost something, even if they didn't get paid much--or anything--for the work itself.)

I sent a contribution to the new ACI, hoping to become a "member." I never got any notification of membership except that I started getting every month a booklet setting out the daily office lessons and prayers for the month. It was something I really didn't need and I figured that ACI didn't need my money and that, perhaps, this monthly prayer guide had been a holdover from the Anglican Institute.

End of story.

Posted by: Douglas Taylor-Weiss | Apr 16, 2007 9:31:59 AM

Dylan --

"It's people like you what cause unrest!"

Or, to quote Rosemary Woods (rather than Monty Python), "I've explained it every way I can think of."

Posted by: Prior Aelred | Apr 16, 2007 10:11:17 AM

If one is on a board and fails to do due diligence, he is culpable if matters go awry. Be ready to go to work if named to a board and make sure the organization has an errors and omission insurance. If insurance carriers with a good rating won't underwrite the policy, get out of Dodge. The defense so far seems to be ,but I didn't know the gun was loaded.

Posted by: Luz y Paz | Apr 21, 2007 12:31:04 AM

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